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nrg-wind-225.jpg.crop_display NRG/Reliant

Embracing Change, Educating Customers

Shifting Texas electric use to nights when wind power is ample.

EDITOR’S NOTE: With wind generation soaring in Texas, The Energy Times invited Reliant executive Scott Burns to address the opportunities that creates for relating to energy customers in new ways. The future of renewables will be fully explored in our wide-ranging new conference, The California Renewables Rush, in San Francisco on April 6.

Change is the only constant, as the saying goes – and at Reliant, we embrace change. Inspired by a vibrant, competitive market in Texas, we focus on anticipating customer demand and then work hard to meet and exceed their expectations.

When market conditions are coupled with enabling technology like smart meters, it creates a domino effect of innovation. Detailed energy usage data lets us provide insights to customers online and better understand how they use electricity and information. This in turn helps us develop new mobile apps, cutting-edge products such as anomaly alerts – where we can notify customers of indications of unusual electricity usage patterns, such as a malfunctioning HVAC system – and many next-generation offerings we plan to build down the road.

Scott Burns
As we anticipate the turns and bends ahead, we have a strong idea of where things will go in part by following the wind, literally. For last November, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas reported that wind power set an all-time monthly record, providing 18.5 percent of the state’s electricity needs. The abundance of this renewable energy source allows Reliant to offer 100 percent renewable energy plans for our customers, knowing that a one-size-fits-all approach to electricity plans won’t work in an extremely competitive market environment.

That’s also part of the reason why we provide electricity plans that fit every lifestyle. Among the most popular from our diverse offerings are time-of-use plans, which have more favorable pricing on nights and weekends for our customers. Wholesale market conditions in Texas can be impacted by the increase in wind-generated power, making it easier to offer innovative pricing plans like time-of-use. In fact, we were first to use the smart meters to launch these plans, as we quickly realized that complex price plans don’t appeal to the typical consumer. Our initial time-of-use plan relied on smart meter data to determine when someone actually uses power, rather than a once-a-month meter read that offers little insight on home usage patterns.

It just so happens that at night there’s an abundance of wind power when it blows strong - according to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory -  as well as lower overall system demand, which allows companies like us to share the benefits of any lower wholesale prices with our customers, making it a perfect fit for time-of-use plans.

If we can pass on the right signals, we can educate customers about changing their usage patterns and benefitting from overall price savings at lower demand times. The end result of our innovative approach is that we have our customers’ backs. And, as future generation sources come online and change the dynamic again, we’ll find new ways to pass on further benefits to consumers. By starting with what the consumer wants, we all win every time.

Scott Burns is Reliant Energy senior director, innovation.



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